Recently, I was thinking to myself about how Paul George and Russell Westbrook are going to be playing together this season in Oklahoma City. Being the intelligent NBA fan I claim to be, the following thoughts immediately came to my mind.:
We're a couple of weeks shy from the talk of how the Thunder are going to dethrone the 'overrated' Warriors. All eyes are on Russell Westbrook yet again. Finally, Paul George shouldn't even be playing for the Nuggets if the Cavaliers knew what they were doing!
George not ending up alongside LeBron James and Kyrie Irving (or should we say Isaiah Thomas now?) then led me to think about recent what-if NBA trades that nearly happened in recent years...and after crying about how badly the Nets missed on so many trades, I decided to write on it. That's where that whole tortured Nets fan in my Twitter bio comes from.
For the sake of transparency, we'll define 'recent' as this decade so anything from January 1, 2010 to now is eligible. In other words, Kobe Bryant almost being traded to the Boston Celtics will not be on this list, though you'll see the Irish plenty of times. In addition, there are a couple of basic ground rules we should probably go over.
- All of these trades came from actual reports, meaning we're not randomly going to say what-if the Knicks traded Carmelo Anthony to the Clippers as a sign-in-trade in 2014 to get DeAndre Jordan. If you want to go and try that, we recommend booting up some of the NBA 2K games.
- These trades are not in chronological order so the number one pick will automatically be from this year. These are ranked moreso in how interesting I personally find them and their potential impact on NBA history, though I'm sure many of you will disagree with my top three picks.
- Any trade that was agreed upon by the teams but was vetoed by the NBA (i.e. the Chris Paul-Lakers trade in 2011) is eligible. Speaking of that trade...
15 Chris Paul's Other L.A. Stop
I think we all know about this trade, so why not revisit it one last time? Obviously, Los Angeles would have received Chris Paul and the Houston Rockets would have taken Pau Gasol off the Lakers' hands. New Orleans, while likely losing their chance at Anthony Davis by the talent they were supposed to get, would have received Lamar Odom from the Lakers and Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, and Goran Dragic from Houston.
In short, Chris Paul plays alongside Kobe Bryant and the Lakers remain title contenders, Houston gets a potent big man to replace Yao Ming, and the Hornets receive enough talent to hold them over for a few years. But, David Stern nixed the deal, Paul ended up with the Clippers, and Kevin Martin was traded the next season for James Harden. Woof.
As for why it's ranked 15th on this list and not higher, this topic has been beaten to death more than Glenn from The Walking Dead. How about we look at some more interesting what-if trades?
14 The Other Paul George Blockbuster (2017)
As I mentioned in the intro, this recent what-if is really what inspired this list if only because of the positive ramifications it'd have had on the Eastern Conference. We don't exactly know all of the factors of this trade other than Paul George would have gone from the Indiana Pacers and Kevin Love would have finally been dealt by Cleveland to another team. More or less, Kevin Love is the NBA office's Rajon Rondo, but Love actually won a championship when the rumors were going on.
There were some other rumors that Kenneth Faried would be involved, while others speculated about Iman Shumpert, but those are the only details we know and that's part of why this trade ranks so low. The other part? We've yet to see how George will fare in Oklahoma City, how the Cavaliers will handle their civil war, and so on..
13 Tyreke Evans teams up with the gritty Grizzlies (2013)
This is interesting if only because the two players mentioned in this trade, Sacramento's Tyreke Evans and Memphis' Rudy Gay, both would play for the other's teams later in their careers - so long as Evans doesn't get hurt in the preseason or waived, that is. But before Evans signed with the Grizzlies this summer, he was actually rumored to be traded there in early 2013 as Memphis wanted an upgrade over Tony Allen and a chance to shed Gay's contract.
As we know now, Gay was traded to Toronto before that year's trade deadline, Evans went to New Orleans that summer, and nothing much really happened. Would Evans have helped the Grizzlies become a legitimate Western Conference contender alongside Mike Conley and Zach Randolph? Given how stacked the West was even back then, I'm not sure, but it'd have been an interesting team to watch.
12 Pau Gasol travels to Phoenix (2014)
As the Phoenix Suns were potentially headed for a playoff berth out of nowhere, ESPN's Marc Stein reported the team was considering trading for Gasol, then in his final season with the Los Angeles Lakers. While the Lakers wouldn't have gotten much other than likely the $14.5 million salary Emeka Okafor was carrying, Gasol could potentially have been a major help to a Suns team that finished only one game back of the Dallas Mavericks for that eighth spot.
What becomes even more interesting, then, is would Gasol have re-upped with the Suns had they made the playoffs? Chicago presented a great chance on paper to win at the time, especially with many thinking Derrick Rose still had plenty left in the tank, but the Suns would have been in a winnable Pacific Division (at the time!) with a young core that had proven themselves before. I'll leave you to think on that....
11 Brooklyn only takes Paul Pierce (2013)
This one, with everything else factored in that we already know, hurts. I can't write much on this, so I'll let Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News take this.
“The first deal negotiated with the Celtics was just for Pierce, and the Nets only had to give up one draft pick, Kris Humphries and MarShon Brooks. But then Doc Rivers left the Celtics for the Clippers, and Garnett came into focus because there was nothing left for him in Boston. ... Although the parameters had been agreed upon early in the day, Garnett didn’t consent until near the end of the first round of the draft — and only after being convinced by Pierce and Kidd in phone conversations."
I'd have to imagine that one draft pick would likely have been one in 2014 or 2015 because of how bad that 2013 class was, which makes things even worse. Please, I don't want to talk about this trade again...
10 Goran Dragic to the Boston Celtics (2015)
Well before superstars like Jimmy Butler, Paul George, and Kyrie Irving dominated trade talks, you had the luxury of hearing about where Goran Dagic was going to go. A year after failing to acquire Pau Gasol from the Lakers en route to finishing one game out of the playoffs, Phoenix either regressed or fell back to earth in the 2014-15 season and considered trading Dragic, an All-Star the previous season. While Dragic ended up going to the Miami Heat and re-signing with them, the team expected to acquire him at first was actually the Boston Celtics.
Remember, this was after the Celtics traded Rajon Rondo and BEFORE they acquired Isaiah Thomas, who was part of the reason Dragic seeked a trade; he had nothing against the future All-Star, but wanted playing time. Given what we know now about Iasiah Thomas coming out of nowhere to emerge as the face of the Celtics, how would things have changed if Boston traded for Dragic?
9 Joe Johnson for Brandon Jennings (2015)
Though this one may not sound like it'd have many ramifications on either side and it turned out to be nothing but rumors, let's discuss it in part because I'm a tortured Nets fan that will likely never see a championship. Let's begin with Ohm Youngmisuk's reports leading up to the 2015 trade deadline:
"Hearing Detroit has reached out to Nets to inquire about Joe Johnson according to league sources. Detroit's interest in Joe Johnson included reaching out to Nets about a package of Brandon Jennings + expiring contracts for Joe per sources."
Given the Pistons' 2015 roster, those expiring contracts likely included Jonas Jerekbo and Joel Anthony. Fun!
Because those are the only details we know, there's not much to speculate about, but I do want to bring up one point. Let's say this trade goes through and Jennings joins a Nets team that will end up making the Eastern Conference playoffs. Would the Nets lock into Jennings long-term because of his age (25 at the 2015 deadline) and lack of assets despite his game slowly falling out of league favor? Let me know in the comment section below.
8 Josh Smith, Kevin Garnett's replacement? (2012)
You have to love the old-school Woj bombs, as Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted the following in the days leading up to the 2012 trade deadline.
"Josh Smith has wanted trade for past year, and league sources say ATL GM Rick Sund has always been partial to Ray Allen, not Kevin Garnett. Atlanta doesn't want to move Josh Smith for an expiring deal, and Boston isn't trading those players for the likes of Marvin Williams."
Interesting! Remember, the conversations about who would replace the Big Three began roughly after the 2010-11 season when the Celtics missed the Eastern Conference Finals again, so to hear about this in the spring of 2012 shouldn't shock anyone. If this trade goes through, the Celtics likely re-up Smith that summer and part ways with Garnett. Where would KG have gone, then?
7 Rajon Rondo, James Harden, and Dwight Howard (2014)
You had to have known Rajon Rondo was going to be on this list in some form, right? In February 2014, ESPN's Marc Stein reported, "Sources familiar w/Rockets' thinking say HOU has absolute interest in trading for Rajon Rondo. But that alone doesn't mean we'll see a deal."
That summer, Stein returned again to let us know, "So look for Rockets to re-enter trade game for longtime Houston target Rajon Rondo as well as try to work their way into mix for Kevin Love."
Remember, Daryl Morey worked for Danny Ainge in Boston, so the two working together on a trade isn't exactly unrealistic. Had Rondo wound up with the Rockets either in the final weeks of the 2013-14 season or prior to the 2014-15 season, one has to wonder not how it'd affect James Harden, but if Dwight Howard could be effective with a point guard who really only excels at dishing the ball. That's definitely a scenario to try in your old NBA 2K games...
6 Rajon Rondo for...Isaiah Thomas? (2014)
Sticking with Rajon Rondo trades, this very well could have happened that same year. Even with the idea that the Celtics wouldn't trade Rondo midseason, Yahoo Sports' Marc J. Spears reported that Boston and Sacramento discussed a potential deal that would send Isaiah Thomas, Ben McLemore and a first-rounder (Sacramento finished with the eighth pick that year, though it's unknown if the pick would be for 2014 or later) to Boston.
Well, we know how well Rondo played in Sacamento alongside DeMarcus Cousins, so I can see this trade working out for the Kings. But would it have worked with the Celtics? This would have been an enormous risk at the time and the Celtics had two first-round picks in a point guard heavy 2014 NBA Draft. Would they have stuck with Thomas (who they now just traded) or would they have gone for a PG in that draft?
5 Kevin Garnett, the Los Angeles Clipper? (2013)
Even I didn't remember just how crazy this trade would have been, so strap in. As Doc Rivers was preparing to leave the Boston Celtics for the Los Angeles Lakers, Kevin Garnett more or less said "take me with you!" as part of the trade.
Had the NBA not struck this trade down, Garnett and either Jason Terry or Courtney Lee would have been sent to the Cippers for DeAndre Jordan, a first-round pick, and potentially Caron Butler; Boston had also considered trading for Eric Bledsoe, but moved onto Jordan when the answer quickly became no.
Talk about landscape changing! The Clippers would have lost an All-NBA center in exchange for a solid year or two of Garnett playing with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, while the Celtics would have gotten a big man for the future, a first-rounder, and a solid wing in Butler. Load up NBA 2K14 and make those rosters...
4 Kevin Love(s Los Angeles)? (2014)
With the Lakers still in their "we can still attract major talent to play alongside Kobe and replace him as the superstar when he retires" phase, both they and the Dallas Mavericks showed major interest in Kevin Love during the 2013-14 season. his was also the same time frame where the Lakers thought they could land one of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, or Chris Bosh, so let's take everything with a grain of salt.
"People think it's so far-fetched that I would stay in Minnesota,” Love told GQ's Steve Marsh. “And I'm not s****ing on the Lakers, but we have the better team, the better foundation. I'm having fun.”
Well, that's definitely true. Yeah, look how that turned out. Love did at least win a ring with the Cavaliers in 2016, though!
3 Chris Paul...to Portland? (2010)
And if that last one wasn't crazy enough, try imagining a Portland Trail Blazers core of Chris Paul, Brandon Roy, and LaMarcus Aldridge. According to reports at the time, the Portland Trail Blazers would’ve sent Andre Miller, Joel Przybilla, Nicolas Batum, Jerryd Bayless and the 2010 22nd overall pick (which became Memphis' Elliot Williams) to New Orleans for Paul and Emeka Okafor.
Without even thinking about how this affects Damian Lilard or C.J. McCollum's futures, remember that this was still when the Blazers thought Roy would get over his injuries. If or when (yeah, when) Roy gets hurt for good, Paul immediately steps in as the 1A with Aldridge and the Blazers would still likely be in good shape. That's not to dismiss Brandon Roy's accolades or skill - seriously, look up his mixtapes on YouTube - but the Blazers would be set at least until Paul hit free agency after the 2012-13 season.
2 Dwight Howard teams up with Jay-Z (2011-12)
For as much as crap as we give the Brooklyn Nets for the infamous Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett trade, imagine the team giving up four unprotected first-round picks to the Orlando Magic for Dwight Howard! At the time, it'd have made sense for parties - Howard wanted out of Orlando and wanted to play with Deron Williams, while the Nets were a year away from moving into the Barclays Center and wanted the starpower to go along with that.
Though there were talks leading up to the 2011-12 season, take a look at this potential offer from the 2012 offseason and just ask yourself "what if?"
- Brooklyn trades four future unprotected firsts (note: these would likely have been 2014, 2016, 2018, and 2020 if the term used was 'future'), Brook Lopez, and Kris Humphries (both of whom were sign and trades) for Howard, Jason Richardson, Chris Duhon, and Earl Clark.
1 Carmelo comes home...to New Jersey? (2010-11)
For every Knicks fan currently complaining about Carmelo Anthony, just imagine how different things would have been if this three-way trade between the Denver Nuggets, New Jersey Nets, and Detroit Pistons went through.
- New Jersey receives Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, and Richard Hamilton.
- Denver receives two first-round picks (for what it's worth, Utah got the Nets' 2011 and Golden State's 2012 first-round picks in the Deron Williams trade) Derrick Favors (who had just been picked third overall in the 2010 NBA Draft), Devin Harris, Anthony Morrow, Quinton Ross, Ben Uzoh, and Stephen Graham.
- Detroit receives Johan Petro and Troy Murphy.
If this trade happens, the Nets prepare for a title run in 2011-12 (that article is from January 10, 2011, when the Nets were 10-27) and Denver will remain competitive for the next few years; Detroit sheds some cap and the Knicks likely aren't going to be winning for a while.
Which of these trades would you have loved to see happen? Make sure to let us know in the comment section below!
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